31 December 2014

New monster: Siren

Neither LL core nor AEC has monster stats for a siren!

Let me fix that:


No. Enc.: 2-5
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: (walking) 120' (40') / (swimming) 120' (40')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 3 + 2
Attacks: 2 (claws) or special
Damage: 1d4/1d4 or Charm
Save: F3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VI
XP: 100

Although appearing as a comely maidens in diaphanous clothing, Sirens are really disgraced denizens of the sea who have been banished to rocky islands for some transgression unknown to land dwellers.

Because of their remote habitats, sirens are rarely a problem for dungeoneers. However, experienced sailors take special care to avoid areas known to be frequented by these creatures.

The primary attack of sirens is their beguiling song.  All within 1 mile (or those occupying the same standard sea hex) of a singing siren must save vs. spells or become charmed (as the 1st level Magic-User spell Charm Person).

Note that this spell-like effect targets an area and will affect all who have not taken precautions to stop the creature's sound from reaching his or her ears. The song effects all humanoids of 6 HD or fewer.

Those so ensorcelled will sail or, if unable to control their craft, swimming toward the closest island with sirens. Armor and weapons may likely be discarded by the victim to better prepare for a long swim. However, normal drowning rules apply (q.v. page 46 LL core).

Any charmed person arriving within reach of the siren will be attacked by the sirens, who will attempt to eat their prey.

31 October 2014

In the hopper: The Horror Beneath Graywater Tower

"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." -- Woody Allen

I am about 40% complete working through a new full-length adventure for Labyrinth Lord, called The Horror Beneath Graywater Tower. I do not yet have an ETA on the delivery, but the core maps are done, about %30 of the dungeon is stocked. I hope to start contracting out for art assets before year's end.

To whet your appetite, here is the current blurb for the front of the adventure:

Swaying Oaks is a well known sanctuary for those seeking rest and recovery. The bucolic grounds offer quiet reflection to those of trouble mind. However, at the heart of Swaying Oaks lies a forbidden tarn called Graywater. Surrounded by queer stone statuary, the pond features a small skerry on which the ancient ruins of a squat tower molder. Something foul inhabits that broken keep. Can your party uncover what lies beneath?

With any luck, this adventure should be available on RPGNow.com in 2015.

UPDATE: Funny thing happened: I didn't finish this adventure yet. However, another is VERY CLOSE. Let's find out what that means...

16 October 2014

An October Idyll

I was born amongst ghoul-haunted forests and mouldering cemeteries. In midnight skies, the echoes of witches' cries are carried on moon-limned clouds. Crumbling piles of bespotted rock tell where old Puritan homesteads once stood.

My home is the place where H. P. Lovecraft and Nathaniel Hawthorne found both inspiration and horror. It is the place Edgar Allen Poe called home until family quarrels drove him southward. It is where Native American tribes lived and warred for centuries before European interlopers proved to be the more perilous threat.

Mine is also the place where starry-eyed utopians, Transcendentalist, Quakers and Shakers tried to fulfil their dreams, but failed. It is the first place in the New World where educators choose to found a college. It is where revolutionaries plotted to overthrow a king.

I have always been proud to be a native of this peculiar Commonwealth, Massachusetts. Although its history has not always been pleasant, kind or noble, it has always been fascinating.

Was there really any doubt that I and my friends would find fantasy and fantasy role playing irresistible?

02 January 2014

The value proposition of low-level heroes

A lonely outpost on the edge of civilization is being harassed by a rabble of unruly goblinoids. The forces at the outpost turn to your party of novice heroes to save them.

Sound familiar?

It is the premise of many first level fantasy RPG adventures. As a plot mechanic, it works well to get players quickly into an adventure and be in a position to look like heroes. As a module writer, I am supremely thankful for this canard. However, even a cursory review of combat tables in D&D and retro-clones will show you that first level heroes have a mere %5 to hit advantage over non-adventurer humans. What is worse is that when looking at the stats for Men in the Monsters section of Labyrinth Lord or B/X D&D, even merchants have 1 hit die. This seems to reduce the premium of novice heroes quite a bit. When you look at more "trained" class like thieves, clerics and magic-users, the hit die situation worsens.

Why doesn't the town/outpost/keep just round up 10 or so of their own people to slay the kobolds/rats/vampire roses?

Player Characters as mercenaries offer their clients a few advantages:

  • The locals do not risk their own necks
  • When there are not enough "spare" locals of fighting age to solve the problem, outsourcing to remote heroes is necessary
  • When the quest giver cannot trust anyone local, out of town heroes are desirable
  • When the quest giver is looking to feed an unspeakable evil, out of town heroes are particularly desirable
  • Heroes bring specialized skills that locals will not have (i.e. magic, thieving, detecting secret doors, etc.)
  • If the heroes succeed, they will become stronger and possibly famous. Locals can bask in the reflected glory of being a past client

Low-level adventures have a bit of a stigma in that they are necessarily used to introduce players new to RPG to adventuring. However, low-level adventures are also where experienced players start with new heroes. In the world of Old School RPG, there are many well-seasoned players. We should be crafting low level adventures expecting expert players.

With some obvious modifications, it should be possible to scale down even the classic Tomb of Horrors to something first level characters could survive (at least survive at the same rate as high level characters do when running through the original adventure).

This is the sort of challenge I am looking to overcome when I release my own adventures. There is another issue of the hero career path, but that is a longer post.